The US Federal Communications Commission appears set to reclassify broadband so that it comes under the agency’s authority, but without explicitly prohibiting special access deals between broadband and content companies, according to a news report. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is mulling this hybrid answer to the knotty “net neutrality” issue, and his proposal would still require a vote of the full five-member commission, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday. Broadband providers may also challenge in court the move to give the FCC more authority.
The head of the Federal Communications Commission is laying the groundwork for expanding the agency’s authority over broadband service, people familiar with his thinking say, a move long sought by advocates of stricter regulation of Internet-service providers. But the plan by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler isn’t expected to satisfy all proponents of “net neutrality”—the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally—because it would still allow broadband providers to cut deals with content companies for special access to customers. The people familiar with the plan emphasized that nothing is final, noting that any proposal would require a vote of the full five-member commission, which is made up of three Democrats and two Republicans. And whatever approach the FCC tries almost certainly will be met with a legal challenge from broadband providers, who would resist giving the agency a heavier hand. Mr. Wheeler has said an open Internet is a goal in developing the rules, along with barring providers from slowing down or blocking content to consumers.